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The Antelope

The Antelope

Gender-neutral restrooms on hold until summer

ZAHIRA LOPEZ / ANTELOPE STAFF Single-use restrooms are being installed as a part of gender-inclusion intiatives.

The bathrooms next to Subway in the Nebraskan Student Union were returned to multiple-use gendered bathrooms. The restrooms were converted to single-use, gender-neutral restrooms last October to promote inclusivity on campus.

The reversal came following service issues in the bathrooms near the Antelope Bookstore on the first floor of the NSU building. These problems caused a shortage of available restroom space.

“The university is very committed to providing inclusive facilities and gender inclusive restrooms,” said Maha Younes, chief diversity officer. “It is something that I am focused on because everybody needs to feel seen, heard and included on campus. When I took the job,  that was one of the first issues that I dealt with, and the university was very open to providing the space.”

Despite the temporary pause on bathroom implementation, the university remains committed to supporting diversity and inclusion on campus.

“The university is very committed to providing students a safe and welcoming environment on campus,” Younes said.

While students continue to use the gendered restrooms on the main floor of the NSU, a gender-neutral option is available on the second floor.

Administration changed their approach after the initial implementation. 

“We probably responded a little too quickly to concerns,” said Jon Watts, vice chancellor for Business and Finance. “We made a decision which took off multi-use restrooms and turned them into single use, which I think challenged the population we served because it’s such an active building. This is a better long-term solution.”

Plans to renovate the bathrooms next to the Antelope Bookstore this summer will turn the space into gender-neutral facilities. The desired finish line for the project is next fall.

“It’s going to be a major gut job,” Younes said. “There are all kinds of restrictions around the construction and the number of restrooms and all of that. They are working through all of it.”

The plans, developed by local construction group Wilkins ADP in conjunction with university leaders, could cost approximately $400,000.

“You never know exactly what you get into until you open up the floor,” Watts said. “This isn’t a facelift; it’s a major remodel. We will change the way the plumbing works and change the way the fixtures are. This will be a significant renovation, which will stress and challenge the timeline.”

Once completed, the spaces will provide private spaces for students, including mothers or students with diverse gender identities.

“We have students who are expecting or who are new mothers,” Younes said. “Sometimes they have to breastfeed or pump, or maybe we have visitors on campus with young children. Maybe they need to go change the baby’s diaper, or feed the baby. It’s about creating space for everybody.”

The push for inclusion drives Younes to continue working for students throughout her first year on the job.

“I just want all students to know that we hear you, we see you and we want you to feel welcomed,” Younes said. “UNK is committed to making sure that we address the needs of all students, and we will continue to improve campus.”

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